I am deeply grateful to be named an Honoree at the 4th Annual Erma C. Johnson Hadley Awards banquet on November 5th, 2021. Ms. Hadley was the first woman and first African American to serve as Chancellor for Tarrant County College. She was instrumental in helping TCC grow and become one of the finest community colleges in the country during her 47 years there. She was an incredible educator and trailblazer.
I am honored to be recognized with my fellow honorees, Commissioner Devan Allen, former Fort Worth City Councilperson and Aids Outreach Center Executive Director, Kelly Allen Gray, and one of my favorite people, Rev. Ryon Price from Broadway Baptist Church. Please join us at the banquet.
We drove all night last Monday evening – or rather, my son Adrian drove all night. I sat in the passenger seat trying to process the events of the previous three days…
I’ve shared with you, gentle readers, that I’m adopted and after sixty-three years I found my birth mother. Last Saturday, Adrian and I went to Kentucky for a couple of days to meet her and my brothers and sisters (Mom says we don’t have “half” siblings, just family…).
I’ve spent this week reflecting on our visit. In a four-day trip my life came full circle. Everything makes sense. I call my birth mother “Mom”. It felt weird calling her by her name. “Mom” naturally rolls of my lips and Mom she is. I’m not confused by this. I’m doubly blessed to have two amazing mothers.
My mom was at the front door before I even got out of the truck last Saturday evening. I don’t know who smiled bigger – Mom or me. We hugged tightly for a long time, as though we had to make up for the years that had passed us by. She held me back and said, “I thought I’d seen a ghost. You look exactly like your Uncle David. You even walk like him”. No one has ever told me I have a family resemblance to anyone. That’s one thing adopted kids rarely hear. It was proverbial “music to my ears”.
My brother, Danny, lives with Mom and I met him right away. If families have “chemistry” then ours was strong. I watched Danny all weekend. The way he takes care of Mom is wonderous. His gentle spirit is what I always wanted in a little brother.
My sister, Dana, came by shortly after we got there. We had texted each other that we were both looking forward to meeting in person, but that it’s a little weird meeting your sixty-three-year-old sibling for the first time. I can’t speak for my sister, but any discomfort faded immediately. I belonged…
Belonging was always an abstract concept for me. I was as much a part of the Joel family as one could dream. My parents and Grandmother Joel made sure of that. Still, there was always that lingering question – “Where do I really come from?”
It hit home when I was tracing the Joel family tree on a well-known genealogical website. No matter how much I want to belong or how proud I am of my Joel family tree, the lineage isn’t truly mine. It in no way means I don’t take pride in the Joel history. In fact, I’m surprised by how many times it overlaps with my birth family.
The family all came together on Sunday for lunch at Mom’s house. My youngest sister, Anne, sat down at the kitchen table with us and promptly announced she had looked me up on the internet. I think I passed muster. One never knows what the internet has to say. Thankfully it wasn’t a mugshot that came up!
Brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and their kids filled the house. I stopped many times during the day to simply be amazed by the chorus of voices and endless activity around me. Family spoke loudly and Mom was the matriarch. Repeatedly I heard, “I wish you could have been here when…” I’m still feeling elation at being part of this family, albeit a recently recognized addition.
My brother-in-law took Adrian and I on a tour of town and our family farm. He’s a history buff like me and every place we stopped, I learned more and more of my family’s long history in Logan County. So much so that I still can’t completely process it all. The family has been there a long time and shares a multitude of cousins in Texas as well. The farm has stood since 1804. I know who my ancestors are. It’s a dream come true.
I’ve thought a great deal about the whole “nature versus nurture” argument this week. I’ve concluded that, for me at least, nature plays a huge role in growing up. There were always little things that couldn’t be explained in my life – missing pieces of a big puzzle, things that I knew and had no reason to know. There are simply some things in life that are handed down through DNA: no other explanation is possible.
My siblings all returned to Mom’s house Monday to say goodbye. This was a short, but necessary trip. Opal’s Farm was anxiously awaiting my return to Texas. It was hard to say goodbye after the last two days. I had sixty-three years of life to catch up on. To do so in a weekend was impossible.
Pictures were taken, numbers and hugs exchanged. One by one, my brothers and sisters left for their respective homes. It was time to go, but I wanted to stay just a bit longer. Adrian and I had a long drive ahead of us and time was growing short.
Mom and I hugged for what seemed like hours. Neither wanted to let go of the other. I got in the truck and watched her as we pulled out of the driveway and drove away. Part of me would love to come home, load up Margaret and a moving van, and head for Kentucky. The other part, and somewhat more rational one, tells me that Opal’s Farm is waiting, and God has important work to do in Fort Worth, Texas. Besides, Mom would want me here doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m sure I just need to take more vacations…
The drive home was marked by sporadic conversation and total silence: partly because of driving through the night, but mainly because there were so many emotions to process – both for Adrian and me. I called Mom to let her know we’d arrived home safely. The overall consensus among my brothers and sisters was that we are family. I couldn’t imagine anything better.
We had a great 4th of July celebration at Opal’s Farm last night. An enormous thank you to everyone who came to eat and celebrate with us. I was so busy I forgot to take pictures (we cooked a lot of hamburgers and hot dogs!). Over fifty of Opal’s Farm volunteers, their families, and friends of the Farm shared food, fellowship, and lots of fresh grilled veggies. Our neighbors came in droves to enjoy the best spot on the Trinity to watch the fireworks. Our first annual “4th at the Farm” was a resounding success.
Preparations for next year are starting today. We want to make next year bigger and better. This year was an idea and a test run. We will keep you posted (and give better notice!). Of coming events at Opal’s Farm for everyone!
We want to offer a very special thanks to our biggest supporter, friend, and sponsor – the Tarrant regional Water District for making Fort Worth’s 4th of July Celebration the best in North Texas. Thanks TRWD!
Hey Opal’s Farm Volunteers! This is just a reminder that Sunday is almost here. That means our 4th of July festivities at the farm will begin at 6 PM. Opal’s Farm is one of the best places in Fort Worth to watch the Fort Worth 4th fireworks show. We have a 360-degree view of the other fireworks displays all around Fort Worth.
The area around our “barn” is being prepared to host the 4th with cold drinks, hamburgers, hot dogs, and grilled fresh veggies (from the farm of course!) for all our volunteers and friends of the farm. Many of our neighbors will be there as well.
You don’t have to be a volunteer to come out and join us. Food and drinks are free for all our volunteers in appreciation of the incredible job they do every day at Opal’s Farm.
We’ve been celebrating freedom since Juneteenth (A FEDERAL HOLIDAY, y’all) and the 4th of July party well be the culmination of a very special, historic time for all of us.
This is a come-and-go affair so please come by even if you can’t stay the evening. We’d love to see you!
If you can’t come, then please feel free to help Opal’s Farm by going to www.unityunlimited.org and donating on the Opal’s Farm page.
I’d like to invite all Opal’s Farmers to come out to the 2021 Dig Deep Conference. Opal’s Farm will be talking about “Empowering Communities Through Food”. There are programs for all types of growers. We’d love to see you there.
Please join Tarrant Area Food Bank and the Tarrant County Food Policy Council for an exciting and educational event – Dig Deep: A Conference for Growers!
Growers of all kinds from all over the North Texas region are invited to attend the conference as a means to network with other growers, learn more about important aspects of growing, and participate in an event highlights the important and positive work being done in our area to help end hunger and promote a healthier community.
Tracks will be offered on Home, Community and Market growing, ensuring that there is something for every kind of grower.